Sunday, 1 May 2011

May 1, 2011 - Skye Boat

When Carman was taking bagpipe lessons, my very favourite tune from his repertoire was the Skye Boat song:
Speed bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing,
Onward, the sailors cry
Carry the lad that's born to be king
Over the sea to Skye

While touring the Isle of Skye (and the Highlands in general) we heard all about the Jacobites and their efforts to bring the Bonnie Prince Charlie to the throne.  "Skye Boat" is a song about how Flora MacDonald helped the Bonnie Prince Charlie escape from the mainland Highlands after the Jacobite's defeat at the Battle of Culloden... don't you love it when the pieces of a puzzle all come together?  I had no idea what this song was about before, I just really liked the tune.

On the day which our Haggis Adventures tour group headed over to the Isle of Skye, one of our stops was in a small town called Kyle of Lochalsh.  I felt very important, as everywhere I turned were "Kyle" businesses:  Kyle Carpets & Flooring; The Kyle Pool; Kyle Pharmacy; Kyle Veterinary Clinic.  The ego was doing quite well, that is until I walked past the Kyle Free Church.

The Isle of Skye is filled with lochs, glens and mountains.  The gorse is still flowering yellow, but the heather is quite brown and scrubby as of yet. 

When we returned to Fort Augustus after our Isle of Skye day, we went on a cruise on Loch Ness.  Being the nerd that I am, I sat in on a presentation on the sonar equipment used to study the Loch.  Loch Ness has a very unique shape - the basin becomes incredibly deep, incredibly quickly, sort of like a shoebox.  The loch never freezes over because it is so massive (Loch Ness holds more water than all of the fresh water in England and Wales combined) and its mean temperature is 5C, with a maximum temperature of 15C.  As the sonar presentation went on, the marine biologist became more and more willing to hint and finally to show us pictures of sonar images he has captured of 8-11m moving objects in the loch, weighing an estimated 2 tonnes.  Whatever these images are showing, these things are apparently fast, elusive, and there are two adults and a baby.  This guy was convincing.  Just sayin'.  (Cue eerie music here.)

On our third and final day touring the Highlands, one of our most significant stops was at the Culloden Battlefields, where the Jacobites fought a clearly losing battle against the British.  This would be the final battle of the Jacobite Rising, where the Jacobite Highlanders were desperately outnumbered and armed with swords and shields, while the British were armed with guns and artillery.  We walked among the named and unnamed clan memorial stones.  It was a very sombre, serious visit.

To completely counter-balance the gravity of this visit, as we rejoined the bus, we listened to a wedding on the radio.  Did anyone else know that one of the Royals was getting married this month?  You would have thought it would have been better publicized than it was...  it seems even being on a road trip in the Scottish Highlands you are not safe from participating in this event.

Time came to say goodbye to the Haggis Adventures tour and return to Edinburgh.  I spent one night there before heading on.  Wanting to squeeze every last possible moment out of my time in Edinbrugh, I bought a ticket for the Scotch Whisky Experience guided tour.  It should be noted that in Scotland, "whisky" is spelled with 6 letters, while in Ireland "whiskey" is spelled with 7 letters.  No one has offered an explanation, so near as I can figure it is because the Scots don't want to spend the extra money on ink to print the superfluous "e".  

I spent today walking around the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.  It was a beautiful, glorious day in the sunshine. 

And now it's time to say goodbye to this amazing country and I head to the airport bright and early tomorrow morning and will be back in Ontario before I know it.

It's been incredible.